More Local, Less Government

At the beginning of his political career, Ronald Reagan illustrated our over-reliance on government with the following truism: "Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, 'What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power.' But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector."

That's why, even though President Obama's budget request to Congress for FY16 includes a $168.8 billion allocation for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of 7.5 percent from FY15, I continue to advocate that our veterans don't necessarily need more government social programs. Rather, we must leverage what already exists at the local level -- those services and supports used in our neighborhoods, by civilians and veterans alike, for years.

Consider the Celebration of Dreams being hosted by Easter Seals Nebraska, or the upcoming 54th Annual Easter Seals Crossroads Ability Lunch hosted by Easter Seals Crossroads. I'll be speaking at both events, and proceeds will go towards reintegration programs for veterans in their communities such as veteran employment services and rural solutions; provide financial assistance for assistive technology devices and services; and sponsor attendance at Easter Seals Nebraska weeklong residential respite camps. It's part of our mission at Easter Seals Dixon Center -- bringing the community together for the greater good of our veterans and military families.

It's time that we do a better job recognizing that our veterans return to their neighborhoods, families and friends. We cannot isolate any of their challenges with the mistaken thinking that government solutions are readily available.

Take housing, for example. Both the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs offer programs that work with homeless veterans and their immediate families on safe, affordable housing options. But even if a veteran gets into a home, it's not a slam-dunk. Having four walls and a ceiling is a start, but these formerly homeless veterans require extensive wrap-around services to support their new living arrangements -- services such as transportation to/from the grocery store or laundromat, child care, and health programs that address myriad needs from preventive medicine to substance abuse.

Nearly 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. For these individuals, organizations such as Easter Seals for crisis prevention and Veterans Village San Diego, Soldier On and U.S. Vets Inc. follow behind the government programs and allow the veterans an opportunity to succeed where they live through support services such as those outlined above.

51 years after Ronald Reagan stated that the private sector outperforms the government, it still rings true. Community is the cornerstone upon which our success relies.